Billy Graham and Jesus Christ: “Faith Seeking Understanding”

Acts 13:36 “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep.”

Billy Graham died last week at age 99. He first emerged on the national stage at age 30, at his 8-week Los Angeles Crusade, telling his audience that “this city of wickedness and sin” had a choice between revival and renewal—or judgment. The Los Angeles Times reported that “6,000 souls came forward, weeping forgiveness for their sins.” He preached in person to over 100 million people. He publicly proclaimed the gospel to more people than anyone in history. Graham became known as “America’s Pastor”, making the 1950-1990 Gallup Poll’s “Most Admired” list more often than any other American.

What fueled Billy Graham’s passion for proclaiming Jesus Christ? In his 2011 article entitled ‘Billy Graham and Charles Templeton: The Sad Tale of Two Evangelists’, Michael Patton, President of Credo House Ministries, gives us the answer to this question as “faith seeking understanding”. The following are excerpts from his article, which he describes as “one of the saddest encounters two people have ever had – a breach in a friendship as one left Christ, never to come back, and the other went on to change the world.

“Billy Graham and Charles Templeton were evangelists who rose to fame in the 40s. Early in their careers they were close friends, but Templeton ended up leaving the Christian faith, eventually becoming an atheist. He wrote one of the most heart-breaking books ever published: ‘Farewell to God’. Here is an excerpt from that book, about a pivotal conversation he had with Billy Graham as he was leaving the faith:

“All our differences came to a head in a discussion which, better than anything I know, explains Billy Graham and his phenomenal success as an evangelist. I said, ‘But, Billy, it’s simply not possible any longer to believe, for instance, the biblical account of creation. The world was not created over a period of days a few thousand years ago; it has evolved over millions of years. It’s a demonstrable fact.’ Graham responded ‘I believe the Genesis account of creation because it’s in the Bible. I’ve discovered something: When I proclaim the Bible as the word of God, my preaching has power. When I stand on the platform and say, ‘God says,’ the Holy Spirit uses me. Wiser men than you or I have been arguing questions like this for centuries. I’ve decided once for all to stop questioning and accept the Bible as God’s word.’

Dr. Patton explains: “There does come a time in our life when we “decide” to believe. It is not as if our intellect is no longer in the game, it is simply that there is a sufficient amount of evidence to make a commitment. Graham had enough. He is right, there is no way faith can wait until every stone is overturned. None of us will ever get to a place where our intellect has no objections whatsoever. At some point in our journey, we decide that God is real, the Bible is trustworthy, and Christ is who He said He was.

Templeton never truly reached a point where he was intellectually convicted of the truthfulness of Christianity, what the reformers called assensus, which is the conviction we have in our minds. Assent of the mind is vital to our faith. Graham had enough assensus to make a decision. He was not going to be an eternal ‘tire-kicker’ with regard to Christianity. Sure, he could have waited, like Templeton, until every possible objection to the faith was answered, but we can never have all our questions answered. At some point there must be a sufficiency in probability.

There is a time when we, like Billy Graham, must stop the type of questioning that comes prior to faith, and make a decision. This does not mean we stop using our minds, as Templeton unfortunately assumed. In Christianity, we call this ‘fides quaenes intellectum’ – ‘FAITH SEEKING UNDERSTANDING.’ We believe in order to understand. We have faith and seek understanding. May God give us all the ability to be like Billy Graham and make a decision to trust God and the Bible. May he help us to believe what we believe with an invincible innocence. Though doubts may still exist, they do not mean that our faith is not real.”

Our verse this week from the book of Acts can be used to describe the life of Reverend Billy Graham, which centered on fulfilling the purpose for which God created Him. And which was revealed to him through the simple decision to trust wholeheartedly in Jesus Christ as the substance of his faith.

The focus of our ministry here at ‘Faith, Substance and Evidence” is the same. As Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The word ‘substance’ means what is under you, that you stand upon – or your “understanding.” The word ‘evidence’ means those convincing proofs hat lead to conviction. Our substance is the Person of Jesus Christ and His achievement on the Cross. Our evidence is what confirms Him. Billy Graham decided to use his mind and trust in Christ.

“The Evidence of Faith’s Substance” – Article #285

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